State reports drop in drug-related deaths; heroin deaths at all-time high

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon saw a seven percent drop in drug-related deaths in 2012, but heroin caused more deaths than ever, the state medical examiner said.

The state on Tuesday released statistics from 2012, which include 223 total deaths related to cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or a combination of those drugs. Of those deaths, 103 were in Multnomah County.

State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson said prescription drug overdose deaths dropped 12 percent from the previous two years.

"There is nothing to celebrate in these numbers because they are real people needlessly dying from the abuse of illicit drugs and prescription medication," said Gunson.

Read the 2012 statistics (pdf)
Read reports from previous years

Some additional notes from the state:

  • The 223 deaths was the third-highest total ever for Oregon, only surpassed by 2008 (229 deaths) and 2011 (240 deaths).
  • Heroin was the leading cause with 147 deaths; a 2.5 percent increase over the previous record number (143) recorded in 2011.
  • Sixty-five percent of all drug-related deaths were related to heroin use.
  • Cocaine-related deaths (19) in 2012 were the lowest recorded since 2000 and a 43 percent drop from last year's 33 deaths.
  • The 19 cocaine-related deaths occurred only in Marion, Multnomah, and Washington counties.
  • Methamphetamine-related deaths (93) dropped 13 percent from last year's 107 deaths, the highest number since 2000.
  • Combination drug use deaths also dropped 16 percent from the previous year. In 2012, there were 33 recorded deaths, the third lowest since 2000.
  • Multnomah County saw a decrease in the number of deaths (103) from 2011, when there were 119.

Prescription drugs

Prescription drug overdoses caused 170 deaths in 2012 in Oregon. Most were associated with methadone (78). Oxycodone-related deaths rose from 56 in 2011 to 66 in 2012. Vicodin-related deaths dropped from 37 in 2011 to 26 last year.